Brave New World: Social Media & Futurology

Personalize Entertainment Times, August 6, 2011.

Gary Hayes. Personalize Entertainment Times, August 6, 2011.

This week the Art21 blog published my post, The Artist is Prescient: Relational Aesthetics and Augmented Reality, featuring new media performance artist Amir Baradaran.  Almost immediately after it went live, there was buzz being generated via Twitter – my iPhone literally was buzzing with notifications of several “re-tweets” of the item.  It was later scooped by AR guru Gary Hayes who I tagged in a post on Facebook. Hayes is using ScoopIt, an online social media platform that allows users to create topic-centric media by collecting gems among relevant streams. They can publish these “gems” to their favorite social media or to their blogs.  In other words, according to the site, you can “be the curator of your favorite topic.”

ScoopIt topics

ScoopIt topics.

Of course I was tempted to have a go at it (ScoopIt), so I requested an invitation and it’s pending.  Curation and social infiltration is a topic in the Baradaran/Art21 post.  I quoted Nicolas Bourriaud and Claire Bishop who sit at the same table, albiet on opposite sides of the “relational aesthetics” debate.  From wikipedia:

Bourriaud wishes to approach art in a way that ceases “to take shelter behind Sixties art history”, and instead seeks to offer different criteria by which to analyse the often opaque and open-ended works of art of the 1990s. To achieve this, Bourriaud imports the language of the 1990s internet boom, using terminology such as user-friendliness, interactivity and DIY (do-it-yourself)… Bourriaud describes Relational Aesthetics as a book addressing works that take as their point of departure the changing mental space opened by the internet.

Bishop writes, “An effect of this insistent promotion of these ideas as artists-as-designer, function over contemplation, and open-endedness over aesthetic resolution is often ultimately to enhance the status of the curator, who gains credit for stage-managing the overall laboratory experience.”  And then,

As Hal Foster warned in the mid-1990s, “the institution may overshadow the work that it otherwise highlights: it becomes the spectacle, it collects the cultural capital, and the director-curator becomes the star.”

Art and exhibition are the first things I think about regarding curation and social infiltration.  Virtual worlds, Augmented Reality and ScoopIt, perhaps, confront the issue of intellectual property and ownership of an “object” or text via the Internet.  If users are generating the content, be it art or text, then what is the role of the “bricks-and-mortar” institution?  Bishop also asks “if relational art produces human relations, then the next logical question to ask is what types of relations are being produced, for whom, and why?”  For the past year I’ve been writing about modern graffiti, street art, DIY, Augmented Reality and virtual worlds.  I’m also analyzing web metrics, ex. the buzz the Baradaran post is generating –  apparently other people are thinking about this, as well.  Gary Hayes scooped the Art21 post and his scoop was scooped…


Scooped and re-scooped... and tweeted.

And, in related news, yesterday I got a new gig as a Social Media Intern for Style Wars, which is timely to say the least (it was a busy week).

Style Wars is regarded as the indispensable document of New York Street culture of the early ’80s, the filmic record of a golden age of youthful creativity that exploded into the world from a city in crisis.  I am now tasked to re-stage this document for the Internet, through social media tools and platforms people are using to publish, converse and share content online.  This film also addresses curation (what is sanctioned vs. what is not, for and by whom) and social infiltration but from an earlier time – today it’s a “brave new world.”

STYLE WARS captured the look and feel of New York’s ramshackle subway system as graffiti writers’ public playground, battleground and spectacular artistic canvas. Opposing them by every means possible were Mayor Edward Koch, the police, and the New York Transit Authority. Meanwhile MCs, DJs and B-boys rocked the city with new sounds and new moves and street corner breakdance battles evolved into performance art.

Brave New World, written by Aldous Huxley in 1931 anticipates developments in technology and learning that combine to change society. The future society is an embodiment of the ideals that form the basis of futurology. Futurology is the study of “postulating possible, probable, and preferable (or alternative) futures and the worldviews and myths that underlie them.”  From wikipedia,

Practitioners of the discipline previously concentrated on extrapolating present technological, economic or social trends, or on attempting to predict future trends, but more recently they have started to examine social systems and uncertainties and to build scenarios, question the worldviews behind such scenarios via the causal layered analysis method (and others) create preferred visions of the future, and use backcasting to derive alternative implementation strategies.

Sounds like a job (or internship) for a research artist and educator like me.  Henry Jenkins wrote Convergence Culture in 2006.  In his view, digital convergence is complex, subtle, and not at all about the hardware, but rather it’s a way to analyze new media trends: the tendency of modern media creations to attract a much greater degree of audience participation than ever before; and the phenomenon of a single franchise being distributed through and impacting a range of media delivery methods.  These two trends go together, making it very hard to pull them apart and examine them separately.  I think it is through art that we can begin to address this notion of convergence, i.e. “what types of relations are being produced, for whom, and why.” Other issues intersecting convergence include the radical nature of some contemporary art and the infiltration of cultural spaces through the use of smartphones, iPads, etc.  What happens when the infiltration (object, text) is an overlay on my mobile device when I look through it at a wall, instead of seeing what is physically there, sanctioned by an institution or corporation?

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